Twenty-one passengers of the two aid ships remain in Israeli prison; three days after Israeli forces intercepted the ships in international waters. The passengers were unlawfully arrested, and the ships were confiscated, along with all the humanitarian aid. Passengers say they were: hit, pushed, choked and hosed down by the Israeli forces that stormed the ship. They also claim that the Israeli navy forced the two aid ships to crash into each other by pressuring each vessel towards one another in a collision course.
A total of 28 passengers were taken by the Israeli military, but 21 of them challenged the deportation orders issued against them. They remain in prison while their challenges to the deportation orders are heard in court.
According to the Israeli Interior Ministry, ‘There are 21 passengers detained who refused to be expelled immediately, and are engaged in proceedings against their deportation before an Israeli judge. Only after these proceedings are complete… can they be deported.”
Dr. Fintan Lane, one of the coordinators of the aid flotilla to Gaza consisting of two boats – the Irish-flagged Saoirse (Freedom) and the Canadian ship Tahrir (Liberation), told supporters by telephone from prison on Sunday, “The boats were corralled to such an extent that the two boats, the Saoirse and the Tahrir, collided with each other and were damaged, with most of the damage happening to the MV Saoirse. The boats nearly sank. The method used in the takeover was dangerous to human life.”
Another flotilla passenger, David, made a statement to supporters: “I write to you from cell nine, block 59, in Givon Prison near Ramla in Occupied Palestine. Although I was tasered during the assault on the Tahrir, and bruised during forcible removal dockside (I am limping slightly as a result) I am basically okay.” David asked for supporters to ask the Israeli government to allow the prisoners to have communication and phone calls, of which they have been denied. He also asked for Israel to be pressured into providing them with information on the other passengers, and to provide them with open cells instead of solitary confinement.
The aid flotilla was attacked by the Israeli military on Friday while en route to the Gaza Strip. The activists involved said they hoped to raise awareness of the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, who have lived under an Israeli-imposed siege that prevents imports, exports and travel since 2007. A similar flotilla in 2010 was attacked by the Israeli military, leading to the death of nine passengers. A recent United Nations Investigation report condemned the Israeli attack on the 2010 flotilla. No charges or reprimands have been filed against those involved in that attack.